Have you ever heard of canine degenerative myelopathy? This condition is not a rare one in dogs, but it is more common in certain situations than in others. As a dog owner, it is a good idea for you to become familiar with this condition so you can recognize its signs if they occur in your own pet.

In the article below, we’ll explain more about what this condition is and what your dog may be dealing with if he is diagnosed with it. You can use this information to figure out when it might be time for your pet to see a vet.

What is Canine Degenerative Myelopathy?

Canine degenerative myelopathy is a genetic problem in dogs that causes a progressive paralysis condition. The condition may cause specific symptoms or may cause a variety of symptoms, but it is always progressive and eventually fatal.

This disease is uncommon in dogs, but it is not rare. Your vet will perform tests to rule out other problems before diagnosing your dog with this condition.

What Causes This Condition?

The underlying cause of canine degenerative myelopathy is a genetic mutation. This mutation effectively prevents the dog’s body from destroying free radicals when it should, which leads to a destruction of cells. The process is a complicated one, but some dogs are more genetically predisposed to this condition than others.

This condition is also more common in certain breeds than others. Poodles, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and a variety of other breeds are more likely to have this condition than others.

What are the Symptoms of This Condition?

This condition is most common in dogs who are eight or more years old, although it can be found in dogs who are five or more years old in some instances. The earliest symptom your dog may show is slight hind limb weakness. Because of this first symptom, many pet owners mistakenly think their dogs have arthritis instead.

As the disease progresses, dogs may become weaker and weaker, and may eventually fall over very easily. In late stages of the disease, dogs may be unable to stand up or control their own bodies at all, although many other symptoms will be present before this stage is reached.

What is the Prognosis of Canine Degenerative Myelopathy and is There a Treatment?

Unfortunately, this disease is a fatal one. Dogs will eventually progress to the point that they cannot stand up or support their own weight; by this point, the condition is likely to be very painful and hard for your dog to deal with. The condition causes a lot of suffering in the late stages.

There is no treatment for canine degenerative myelopathy. Vets will usually work with owners to determine the point at which a dog’s suffering is outweighing his quality of life, and then will recommend euthanasia. Provided the dog has no other underlying health conditions, degenerative myelopathy will usually be the cause of death.

What are the Management Options for This Condition?

There is no good management option for this condition. In the early stages, vets may help owners figure out pain management and assistance options for dogs with mild paralysis. However, by the time the disease reaches its moderate stage–and certainly by the severe stage–there is no management available for a dog’s pain or paralysis.

Until that point, however, some dogs may get some relief from acupuncture, chiropractic care, or mild sedatives. The right option for your pet will depend on his age, other health concerns, and quality of life at the time of diagnosis.

If you suspect your dog might have degenerative myelopathy, or if he has any predisposition to developing this problem, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet as soon as possible. The sooner you work with your vet to potentially diagnose this condition, the more likely your dog will be to fight the progression of the condition.

Your vet can also help you determine whether or not your dog’s condition has progressed past the point of medical treatment. In this instance, your vet will help you choose when euthanasia may be the best solution, and when your dog’s condition can still be managed.